UVA infectious doctor discusses pause on Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WHSV) — The pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine follows the development of blood clot disorders in six women across the US.
Federal agencies say the recommended pause is out of an abundance of caution. Though not yet confirmed, local health experts believe the reaction has to do with the technology the vaccine is created with.
“The mRNA vaccines, the Pfizer and Moderna, are very different. They don’t use adenoviruses, and this clotting problem has not been seen with them,” Dr. Bill Petri, with the University of Virginia, explained.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses adenovirus technology. Dr. Petri says the technology uses a common cold virus that is genetically engineered to act like the spike protein in the coronavirus, creating an immune response to not only the common cold, but the coronavirus as well.
Experts are still confirming the cause of the blood clots, but some believe it is similar to the effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“More likely than not it is going to be the same mechanism, that very rarely one out of a million people when they get that vaccine they are going to make an anti-platelet antibody that predisposes them to clots,” Dr. Petri added. “The antibodies turn your platelets on and make them make clots when they should be doing that.”
Dr. Petri says while this may be a short-term setback, having two other vaccines makes all the difference.
“We’re talking about a very rare side effect with J&J. It is one out of a million, whereas if you look at the U.S. today, it is one out 500 people [that] have died [due to] COVID in the U.S. So one out [of] 500 people dying and one out of a million getting a blood clot. If we didn’t have other vaccines, I think we would just push on, because obviously, everyone needs to be aware of what risk they may take by getting vaccinated, but the benefits outweigh the risks,” the infectious disease doctor said.
The CDC issued the following statement regarding the pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine:
“CDC and FDA have recommended a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine in the United States out of an abundance of caution, effective Tuesday, April 13. CDC will convene a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on Wednesday, April 14, to address this issue. People who have received the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine within the past three weeks who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath should contact their health care provider.”
Federal agencies met to discuss the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and decided on Wednesday not to recommend a restart on the use of the vaccine until more information can be gathered.
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